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Fourth of July Advice: Focus on the People, Not the Food.

John Sacco, MD, a radiation oncologist with OHC who is also board certified in Integrative and Holistic Medicine, Blogs, 0 comments
July 2, 2018


Growing up in northern New Jersey, the fourth of July holiday was pretty typical, almost formulaic: cookout, fireworks and ice cream. And it was great. My Italian grandparents would come out from Brooklyn for the holiday weekend. My Swedish grandparents didn’t always make it because they were further away in upstate New York. (But they never missed Christmas!) I remember we always had steak because my dad wasn’t much of a burger/hot dogs kind of guy. After the cookout, we’d go to Butler High School football field to watch fireworks and then stop at Carvel’s for ice cream.

Back then I would eat whatever was put in front of me. It wasn’t until my first year in medical school that I started paying attention to what I was eating. Now my food choices are completely different, including our menu for the fourth of July. Here’s a recipe I think you and your guests will enjoy that will also provide a healthier option: a refreshing, summer salad, made with sweet watermelon, peppery arugula and feta cheese.

From shape.com. Total Time: 15 minutes, Prep Time: 15 minutes, Cook Time: 0, Calories: 157.5 calories

3 cups seedless watermelon, cubed and chilled
1/2 cup crumbled feta
7 oz arugula
1/4 small red onion, sliced very thin
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh pepper

Directions: Wash arugula and dry well. In a large bowl whisk vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with the remaining ingredients and serve.

Nutritional Information: Yield: 4 servings, serving size: 1/4th of salad. Amount per serving: 157.5 calories, total fat: 11.5g, sodium: 219.5mg, carbohydrates: 11g, fiber: 1g, sugar: 9g, protein: 4g

I understand many of you won’t be able to control the menu at your gathering. No matter what your choices are, there are some simple things you can do make to make your holiday a little healthier. This is only one day out of the year, so if you do go for the standards, it’s okay. Just remember, according to the American Cancer Society, about one-third of all cancer-related deaths in the United States are linked to diet and excess weight, along with inactivity. Having a regular healthy, plant-based diet can also help reduce your risk of cancer and help those who are in remission from cancer prevent reoccurrence of this chronic disease. And when I think about it, looking back, my fourth of Julys weren’t really about eating. It was the time I spent with my family and friends and creating lasting memories!

  1. Try to eat before you go to your gathering and make it a heathy snack. If you feel full you’re more likely to eat less at the party.
  2. If you must have the BBQ chicken and baked beans, take small servings. A lot of sugar goes into BBQ sauce and baked beans. Dishes like potato salad and Cole slaw are typically loaded with fat. Try to take a small amount of each of your favorites. You’ll feel satisfied without overdoing it.
  3. Remember your “balanced plate.” ½ of your plate should be vegetables, ¼ of it should be protein and ¼ carbs.
  4. Before you start to fill your plate, scan the table to see everything that’s available. That way, instead of filling your plate with everything from beginning to end, you can wait to reach the healthier options.
  5. If your host is serving burgers, hot dogs and pull pork sandwiches, eat them without the bun for fewer carbs. Some dietitians recommend no more than 26 grams of carbohydrates for each meal. A plain hamburger bun, weighing about 1.5 ounces, has a total of 21 grams of carbohydrates. You’ve almost used up the recommended amount just with your bun!
  6. Slow down! People who eat slowly tend to fill up faster. If that’s difficult for you, try eating while mingling with family and friends. That way, you’ll be talking while eating and it will naturally slow you down.
  7. Trick yourself – use smaller plates. Research shows that most people will eat less and not even realize it.

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